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How and where snow is measured in Denver

DENVER — Measuring snow in Denver is more complicated than just walking out your door and sticking a ruler in the snow.  Let’s start with where snow is officially measured.  Since record keeping began in 1882, there have been four official measuring locations.

1882-1915: 16th and Larimer streets
1916-1949: 17th and Stout streets
1950-2007: Stapleton International Airport
2008-present: Denver International Airport

DIA is roughly 20 miles northeast of the old downtown Denver measurement sites.  This has a significant effect on measured snow amounts, but it is the official record for the entire Denver area.
tomer-measurable-snowfall

There is an entire National Weather Service guidebook for how snow is measured. Let’s first answer the question as to what is “measurable snow.”

“Snowfall is the accumulation of new snow and ice (ice pellets [sleet], graupel, snow pellets) since the last observation, prior to melting or settling,” the National Weather Service says. “Measure snowfall to the nearest 0.1 (one-tenth) inch.  The measurement should be made as soon as possible after the snow ends in order to capture how much accumulated.”

So “measurable snow” has to be 0.1 of an inch or deeper.  Also, snow is measured each 24-hour period immediately after the snow stops.

As for melting snow, the National Weather Service says “If snow continually melts as it lands and accumulation never reaches 0.1 inches on your measuring surface, record the snowfall as a trace (T), and record in your remarks that the ‘snow melted as it landed.’”

How to measure snow in a 24-hour period. Courtesy NWS.

How to measure snow in a 24-hour period. Courtesy NWS.